Loose Ends: A Literary Supercut of Sci-Fi Last Sentences

From the author: “Loose Ends” is a literary supercut composed entirely of last lines from 137 science fiction and fantasy books. After gathering these lines, I found they fell into a number of patterns—some surprising, others obvious—in how writers end their stories. With these patterns in hand, I arranged them into a sequence of interconnected vignettes. In these ways “Loose Ends” doubles as narrative and archive, short story and data analysis. To read a version that reveals the names of the books, click here. —Tom Comitta

Miles grinned sleepily, puddled down in his uniform. “Welcome to the beginning,” he said quietly. “We have a long way to go.”

“But I can’t speak Swedish,” I said.

“You’ll learn,” he said. “You’ll learn, you’ll learn.”

He threw on some more brush and watched the dark smoke spiral up under the sun, a warm and now comforting sun. “Let’s sail till we come to the edge.”

“Not until we can deliver our secret to our respective worlds. And acquire an intact ship.”

“Let’s go talk to Folimum and see what he says.” He turned back to his Master. He was ready to go.

“I think that could be arranged,” I said. I turned away from the bridge and Diane offered me her arm. I hesitated a moment, then took her arm.

Miles smiled. “Let the blind man show the way.”

He did.

We gladly followed. We walked hand in hand down the street. Somewhere on that road was Gerrith, and at its end, the starships waited. And high in the sky, an intact ship ascended until it was a mere speck, an enormous dim comet, with tail pointing along its path rather than away from the sun—and like comets of old, an omen of change. Amerie blinked, and the speck became invisible against the bright vault of the heavens.

We turned our backs on the comet and went into the house, hand in hand. Rogi closed the door and got on with it: “To the everlasting glory of the Infantry?”

“To the everlasting glory of the Infantry!”

“To the brave, ingenious, and honored survivors of this planet? Including the dinosaurs?”

“To the brave, ingenious, and honored survivors of this planet! Including the dinosaurs!”

I handed the bartender my empty glass. “I just found out where we’re going: Unto the end of the world … Unto the end of the world.”

“Yes, the end is not yet! Let us go!” he said. “ … someday soon. When I have time.”

“We’ll take a quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe … ” How the Family Ghost must have laughed.

He looked thoughtful, and added, “But what becomes of Willis? I wish I knew.”

“I think he’s working hard on his soul,” I said. “I think he’s becoming a real person.”

“Counting the Neanderthal, that makes three of us.”

“Alone, together. The way it always used to be.”

Then he smiled. "Well, almost always … If I have anything to say about it.” He raised his tankard, clanked it against my own. “Enjoy!” he said. “Life is a cabaret, old chum!” The cat on the stool beside me just kept grinning.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, it is.”

“Lean on me.”

I did. And drank more beer. And went up.

“Now,” he breathed, “about that exploration … ”

Once out of town, he did not look back. No one dared disturb him or interrupt his thoughts: and presently he turned his back upon the dwindling Sun.

Mary Vaughan continued on past the wall, forward, into the future. She nodded solemnly and went to him. They held each other until they could no longer tell which of them was trembling.